Dear America, It's Time to Listen

There is a lot I’ll never be able to fully understand simply because of who I am. A straight white woman born into a middle class family. I’ll never be able to fully grasp what it’s like living in fear of being torn apart from your family and sent to another country. I’ll never understand what it’s like to live in fear of being gunned down in a hoody because of the color of my skin. I’ll never understand being targeted for practicing my religion. I’ll never be able to understand having to fight for the right to marry who I love.

The level of hate in our country is unacceptable. Absolutely disgraceful. We all have an extraordinary opportunity to learn from people who are different that us. There is power and knowledge in listening to the stories of others. People different than you….different political opinions, different colors of skin, different backgrounds, different social classes, different sexual orientations. There is a lot I will never fully understand, but over the years I’ve at least made an effort to try and learn from the experiences of people different than me by getting out of my bubble. I don’t claim to be an expert of these matters, but I’ve seen my views on the world (especially America) shift.

dear america

I’ve seen how my perspective changed after working with kids from low income families. How my views of poverty and our political system shifted after visiting their homes. During college my views on the prison system got flipped upside down after volunteering at the women’s prison for a semester. After traveling to Haiti I learned how NGOs can be more harmful than helpful to locals living in extreme poverty. Through these experiences I’ve also deepened my understanding of unfair privileges I’ve received simply by being born white. I’m not at all claiming to understand it all because I know I don’t. But I went into these communities with an open mind, not trying to pull white savior shit or change people, but simply to listen and learn, and their stories changed me. Sadly there are a lot of people (mainly straight white people) who will never experience learning from people who are different than them simply because they refuse to step out of their bubble with an open heart.

love your neighbor

The state of our country is not too great and the simple act of learning from people outside our bubble is something everyone can do. Stop arguing on Facebook. Stop pointing to the Bible. Stop pointing to the constitution. Stop relying on politicians. And start by getting outside of your community, having real conversations, listening to the experiences of others, and being willing to learn and be changed. Love your neighbor….but don’t be afraid to leave your neighborhood and learn. Please don’t go into the conversation with the expectation of changing others, but attempting to understand others. Don’t pull that “I’m colorblind & everyone is equal to me” shit or “I took a class in college. So I know what I’m talking about” or “I have a gay friend.” Like really try to learn from people on how their journeys and experiences have effected how they think and who they are. There is so much you can’t fully understand about society and the world unless you, yourself, experience it. Being white there is a lot I will never experience or understand. Yes, I’ve worked for non-profits that led me into communities different than where I grew up. In college I took quite a few classes on race & social class, but I will never be able to fully grasp what people of color, immigrants, or people of different sexual orientations go through. We all have SO much to learn from each other and it starts with open minds and open hearts from everyone….that includes leaders at the top and community members. People matter. And so do their stories. By learning from the journeys of others, we are able to build relationships, community, and better understand social + political issues impacting communities outside of our own little bubbles. So go forth today with an open mind, an open heart, and be willing to be changed.